Rory McIlroy will look to successfully defend the title which kick-started his resurgence at this week’s Australian Open in Sydney.
Given the world No 1’s brilliant performances this year, which brought major victories in the Open and US PGA Championship and two other wins, it is hard to believe just how bad 2013 was in comparison.
McIlroy struggled to adapt to his new equipment, fell out with his management company and walked off the course during his defence of the Honda Classic, not to mention labelling his own play “brain dead” when missing the cut in the Open at Muirfield.
The 25-year-old had to wait until December to win his first tournament of 2013 at Royal Sydney, denying home favourite Adam Scott the triple crown after the Masters champion had won the Australian PGA and Australian Masters.
Twelve months on, McIlroy returns to Sydney – albeit a different golf course – already thinking about completing a career grand slam in the Masters next April and brimming with confidence.
“This year has been full of ups and downs, mainly ups, which is a great thing,” said McIlroy, who won the BMW PGA Championship in May just days after calling off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
“I learnt a lot from it and I feel like I came through this year stronger and wiser, and I can go into 2015 in a much better place. I’m happy with the success that I’ve had and I feel like there’s been a lot that I’ve learned this year, as well, and that’s a great thing going into the future.”
Meanwhile, Ernie Els is dreaming of holding aloft the South African flag at the opening ceremony when golf returns to the Olympics in Brazil in 2016. The South African will be 46 when the sport returns to the Games fold in Rio de Janeiro following a 112-year absence.
“I would love to be on the team representing South Africa at the Olympics,” said Els. “If it comes off it would be the extra special bit of icing on my career. It would be unbelievable to be part of the team.”Reuse content